Achievement is up in Knightdale schools, but so are transfers

Friday, February 10, 2012


Knightdale schools – long identified as underachieving and perpetually faced with high poverty – have shown measurable improvement over the last few years.End-Of-Course test results, graduation rates, and SAT participation rates rose in the last three years according to data presented last week by education expert Tim Simmons of Raleigh-based WakeEd Partnership.
“Clearly, your schools are improving in important areas ... that’s the result of community engagement,” Simmons on Jan. 26 told the crowd of nearly a hundred people at Knightdale Town Hall.
In the last three years, the percentage of students that pass end-of-course exams jumped from 66 percent in 2008-2009 to 75 percent in 2010-2011.
The Wake County average is about 84 percent.
The number of students graduating in four years has also increased in the last three school years. In school year 2008-2009, 74 percent of Knightdale students graduated after four years. In 2010-2011 (the most recent year available), that number increased to 76 percent.
The Wake County average in 2011 was 81 percent.
Knightdale’s SAT participation rate has also jumped in the last three years. Nearly 65 percent of Knightdale students took the exam in 2010-2011 – a 13 percent increase from 2008-2009.
The Wake County average in 2010-2011 was 84 percent participation.
The average SAT score of Knightdale students has hovered around 930 in the past three years.
Math and reading proficiency levels improved at each of Knightdale’s five elementary schools between 2007 and 2010 as well. However, Lockhart and Lake Myra were the only schools to show improvement in the 2010-2011 school year.

More looking elsewhere
Though schools here are improving, more Knightdale-based students are commuting elsewhere for an education, according to Wake County Schools data. The percentage of Knightdale students attending their base school has decreased from 73 to 69 percent.
The vast majority of those are students accepted to magnet schools.
Students may be looking elsewhere for more intensive courses, says Shannon Hardy, of local educational advocate, Knightdale 100.
Knightdale has the lowest percentage of students taking exams in Advanced Placement courses.

High poverty
What makes Knightdale stand out from its Wake County counterparts is the percentage of students on free-and-reduced-lunches.
Knightdale’s elementary schools have far more impoverished students than the Wake County average. For example, 80 percent of students at Hodge Road Elementary are on free-and-reduced-lunch plans.
At Knightdale Elementary, the number is 62 percent. At Forestville Road, it’s 58 percent. At Lockhart, it’s 56 percent. An at Lake Myra, it’s 44 percent.
The Wake County average is about 34 percent.
Simmons, however, says poverty isn’t an obstacle to achievement.
“It’s not the free-and-reduced-lunch kids who are holding down scores in Knightdale,” he said. “Kids need high expectations and opportunities.”

What’s next
Knightdale High and East Wake Middle became STEM schools this year. That means they get increased resources and curriculums that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Knightdale schools also recently served as a test town for training with the SAS Institute.
Those programs were lobbied for by Knightdale 100, which hosted Simmons’ speech.
Next, the group hopes to make Hodge Road Elementary a bilingual school. More than 50 percent of Hodge Road students speak Spanish as their first language. Yet, the school is one of few that does not offer Spanish classes to its students.
Not only would english-speaking students benefit from learning a second language, spanish-speaking students would learn how to properly use their first language.
“Reading comprehension scores would soar,” Debra Pearce, Hodge Road principal, says. “My Spanish-speaking kids have trouble learning proper English partly because they aren’t properly learning their base language.”
School board reps. Keith Sutton and Jim Martin, who attended the meeting, said they, too, would lobby.
In the meantime, Simmons emphasized the importance of parental involvement for quality schools.
He concluded: “You have the schools you want already – they’re public. They’re yours. Now what are you going to do with them?”

Specht: 919-829-4826